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A’ME grips have been around almost as long as I have, providing those famous little triangles for BMXers, golfers and now mountain bikers to hang on to since 1975. Manufactured in the USA, Aeromarine Molding and Engineering (A’ME) is now offering what they claim to be the first heated mountain bike grip, which was introduced in early 2010.
The grips have six heat settings for each hand that are adjusted via one small, sealed button on each grip. Power is provided by one rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery that is claimed to reach full charge in approximately four hours and provide enough juice to keep the grips heated at the highest setting for two hours.
The grips themselves come in a standard single-sided locking style, are offered in a plethora of colors and are available in either a Tri or Ergo Tri (tested) grip option. All pieces to the system are sealed from the elements, including the two Duxbutt weatherproof connectors that plug the grips to the battery.
When it comes to winter riding in Colorado these grips change the game. On snowy sub-20-degree days I was able to leave behind the usual bulky winter lobster gloves for single-layer gloves, which greatly increased dexterity and handling abilities. And this is coming from an admitted Sally with sensitive hands that have often been the reason to call it quits on winter rides.
So on several frigid descents that made my ears and toes feel as if they were about to shatter into a thousand tiny ice cubes, my hands were merely cool in a pair of insulation-free spring/fall gloves. And on a sunny, ~35-degree lower-speed ride, I actually got away with riding gloveless for about half an hour before a storm blew in and dictated donning gloves again.
Six temperature settings sounded like overkill initially, but came in quite handy during varying temperatures and ride tempos. In sub-freezing weather, grip settings still usually dropped to level 1 or 2 on longer climbs, hovered at around 3 in the flats and were cranked up to 6 on longer descents.
Operating the setting buttons is reasonable in thin gloves or with bare fingers, and though they look like they could easily be depressed while riding, I never had an issue with unintentionally changing the heat level on any of the test rides.
On muddy, snowy and generally sloppy rides the electronics worked flawlessly, at least in regards to holding up in inclement weather. Everything seems well sealed from the grips to the connectors to the battery, although the system was never ridden in a downpour.
According to the manual it takes several full battery cycles to reach the claimed two-hour lifespan of heat at the highest setting. Our battery was charged and cycled by the book over half dozen times and the longest the heat stuck around was 1:40 with heat settings at level 3 the majority of the time.
And once the grips started losing their heat, the hands quickly followed suit. This was a bit of a conundrum as on one end I was absolutely elated how well the heated grips were working in freezing conditions, yet left my hands completely and utterly underdressed to the point of not being able to safely finish riding once the heat dissipated. Two simple solutions were to keep rides under 1.5 hours and to pack big, bulky winter gloves to change into if/when the batteries died.
Adjusting heat settings was a bit like playing Simon Says, with the added challenge of doing so while riding if heat adjustment was desired on the fly. From the off position the system was straight forward as the amount of times the buttons are pushed translates to the heat level they get set at. Want the heat set at level 4? Push the buttons four times and watch the LED light blink four times to confirm the selected heat setting.
Where it gets a little confusing is switching from one heat level to another. Want to drop from level 4 to level 2? Push the buttons four times and watch the LED light blink 2 times to confirm. Want to increase heat from level 2 to level 6? Push the buttons four times and watch the LED light blink six times to confirm. And that’s assuming you remember what setting you were already in.
To add to the challenge of adjusting heat levels on the fly for someone as simple-minded as me, pushing both buttons multiple times simultaneously while riding was on par with twisting the barrel adjuster on one’s rear derailleur while rolling — possible, but neither smart nor anything less than phenomenally difficult. Circus-like abilities aside, it therefore takes a few seconds to deliberately push the little buttons on each grip to the desired setting and another handful of seconds to watch the following LED lights cycle through confirmation blinks.
For example, if there’s a four-level adjustment, that’s a minimum of staring down at the dashboard for 15 seconds instead of looking down the trail. It was possible to switch up settings on the road and on very mellow trail, but on the majority of rides it was necessary to pull over to reach a desired heat adjustment.
Installation is relatively straightforward, but finding a solid spot on a bike for the flat, square battery leaves a bit to be desired. Ours fit best strapped to the bottom of the downtube, but still slipped on occasion during rougher rides, including one ride where it slipped far enough to unplug one of the connectors. This was mostly due to rushed installation, but system installation definitely isn’t a no-brainer.
Riders who hold on with looser grips may find that their fingers still get a little cooler while their palms are nice and toasty. I found myself fully clinging to these in cooler weather to keep my fingertips warm.
The $350 price-point will keep the masses from running the A’ME heated grips, especially with such limited battery life. But for those who aren’t phased by the price and are willing to trade a new level of cold-weather comfort for limited ride time, these grips will not disappoint.